FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Forget the formalities, say race organizers. They are tired of the UCI’s stakeholder meetings. They want to make races safer now, for the 2017 season, by reducing the size of the peloton.
Three big organizers — ASO, RCS Sport, and Flanders Classics — made their intentions clear Friday afternoon, saying they would cut the size of team rosters: from nine to eight in the three grand tours and from eight to seven in the others, such as one-day classics and week-long stage races. The UCI shot back Saturday morning saying that the big three would have to wait until their demands are accepted. And that it will not happen in 2017.
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RCS Sport, however, told VeloNews that it is now time to change after years of talking and crashes, including the death of Antoine Demoitié this spring in Gent-Wevelgem.
“We wanted to give a signal; we’ve been talking about safety and safety for many years, but the reality is nothing changes,” RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni said. “If the UCI says ‘no’ then that’s not great. They are saying they want safety, making safety commissions, but then they don’t decide anything. [Too many meetings] without ever making a decision.”
The UCI said that any decision would have to be agreed on by the Professional Cycling Council (PCC). The organizers form part of the council and have a say. However, the UCI said, “This subject was discussed at the last meeting in November 2016, and it was agreed to consider in detail the implications of such reduction over the coming months, with no change for 2017.”
Vegni, however, expects the UCI is going to consider it even before the next PCC meeting in December.
“It’s a bit of a provocation,” Vegni added. “Us three organizers are standing together and saying we are ready to do something, otherwise it just stays the same. It’s been three or four years, and we’ve not seen anything.
“Meanwhile, we need to consider some technical aspects. We are at the risk of viewers becoming bored in front of the TV. We want to see riders race and make the race, not the usual escape of three hours, then at 15 kilometers to go, the group takes them. Basta! We need to offer the people something more valid on a sporting level.”
Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere said that 100 cyclists would be out of work by 2018 if the change goes through because the teams would need to hire fewer cyclists. That would trickle down, he said, and teams would hire fewer staff.
“That’s not true,” Vegni explained. “Look at how many races there are, on a given Sunday. You have two or sometimes three races and WorldTour races overlapping. Teams arrive in August unable to fill out the race rosters.”
Jonathan Vaughters and Luca Guercilena, heads of the teams Cannondale – Drapac and Trek – Segafredo, respectively, responded that the change comes too late into the season. Guercilena told VeloNews, “A one-year time window is more realistic. It is too late now, because we are starting next week with training camps, and in January we are already racing the WorldTour at the Tour Down Under.”
“Is there a safety problem or not?” Vegni said. “The roads have changed. The local roads are now full of roundabouts and dividers, signs, and other slowing measures, so the risk of crashing has grown.
“I can understand Vaughters — it’s a bit late, but it’s been going on for four or five years and nothing comes out. I want to give a strong signal, to say, we are ready, but [if] you don’t let us, then do something yourself.”